Innovation killed by process

I got sucked into a dispute yesterday between someone who had clearly spent a lot of time and effort formulating a strategy to connect people and departments working towards formulating polices for children’s services across the local government sector. For those not familiar with how things work (or not, as the case may be) in the UK public sector, this should be recognised as a truly innovative approach – i.e., establishing an environment for peer collaboration without the constraints of geographical boundaries or politics (with a small ‘p’) – in other words a Community of Practice.

The poor chap had been struggling to get this initiative launched for some time, and had been knocked back by “the management” who were more concerned about his use of vocabulary in the supporting documents he had produced describing what a CoP was.

I wonder why, if things look fairly simple (and there’s nothing remotely complex in developing a community of practice), we insist on building processes around it until it becomes so complex that (a) only qualified ‘experts’ can do it properly, and (b) it can only be implemented if it is part of some corporate ‘grand plan’.

I offered encouragement to the chap who was struggling against this tide of bureaucracy, but regrettably I was not empowered to make a difference for him.

This reminded me of quote I read on Euan Semple’s blog recently about innovation…..

”Innovation becomes possible whenever and wherever the right combination of need and solution arises without being killed stone dead by process”.

I fear that in this instance, process has once again brutally murdered a good idea!

One Comment

  1. I’m reminded of a quote recently sent to me on leadership:

    “When the effective leader is finished with his work, the people say it happened naturally.” Laozi

    Quite a contrast to hyper-controlling vocabulary and imposing a corporate “grand plan”, isn’t it?

    Best of luck with all this!

    October 25, 2006

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